| Odds & Ends Driving Laws
Why do some countries drive on the left? Afternoon commuting traffic on a4 motorway near The Hague Randstad area. Highway crossing aquaduct tunnel with urban area of Rotterdam in backdrop, Netherlands.

Although most of the countries in the world drive on the right, there is no global system that governs which side of the road drivers drive on. In all, 171 countries and territories drive on the right-hand side of the road, and 77 countries and territories drive on the left-hand side.

Left-side drivers include the United Kingdom, its territories, and many former British colonies, such as those in Oceania. Right-side drivers include the United States, Canada, Latin America, the majority of European countries, and many countries in Africa and Asia.

Keep reading to learn why some countries drive on the left while others drive on the right.

Why Do Some Countries Drive on the Left Side of the Road? 

There is no definitive answer as to where left-sided driving originated, but there are a few theories. One theory is that left-sided traffic originated during the days of horse travel, where a left-sided position made it easier for riders to draw their sword in the event of an enemy encounter.

Another theory traces the origins of left-sided traffic to 1722 when a law was passed to ease congestion on London Bridge. The law ruled that inbound traffic keep to the west side of the bridge, and outbound traffic keep to the east side. In 1835, British Parliament passed the Highway Act, which applied the left-side rule to the entire British Empire.

Although most European countries made the switch to right-sided traffic in the 20th century, the United Kingdom and many of the countries it colonized still drive on the left.

Why Do We Drive on the Right Side of the Road? 

It’s believed that we drive on the right because most people are right-handed, but it’s not entirely known why some countries drive on the right. In the United States, teamsters who drove teams of horses used to ride on the horse on the left to keep their dominant right hand free to whip the other horses. They started riding on the right side of the road so they could see passing wagons and avoid collisions.

What Countries Drive on the Left Side of the Road? 

Many of the countries that drive on the left were part of the former British Empire, although some were not, including Indonesia, Japan, Suriname, and Thailand. Countries that drive on the left side of the road include:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bhutan
  • Botswana
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Brunei
  • Cayman Islands
  • Channel Islands
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos Island
  • Cook Islands
  • Cyprus
  • Dominica
  • East Timor
  • England
  • Falkland Islands
  • Fiji
  • Grenada
  • Guernsey
  • Guyana
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jersey
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Lesotho
  • Macau
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Montserrat
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • New Zealand
  • Niue
  • Norfolk Island
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Pitcairn Island
  • Saint Helena
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • Seychelles
  • Singapore
  • Solomon Island
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Island
  • Tuvalu
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Exceptions to the Left-Hand Traffic Rule 

Guyana and Suriname, colonized by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, respectively, are the only countries in South America that drive on the left. Similarly, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, and the United Kingdom are the only countries in Europe that drive on the left.

The British constructed the first railroad in Japan in the 1870s. It was left-sided, thus beginning Japan’s history of driving on the left. Although Macau and Hong Kong are a part of the People’s Republic of China, they drive on the left side of the road due to their colonial heritage.

Mozambique drives on the left, despite the fact that Portugal, its former European power, switched to the right side during the 1920s. The country also borders countries that drive on the left.

What Countries Drive on the Right Side of the Road? 

Approximately 75% of countries in the world drive on the right side of the road, including the United States, Canada, and the majority of countries in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Whereas many of the countries that drive on the left were formerly part of the British Empire, many of the countries that drive on the right were parts of the French colonial empire, such as Algeria, French Guiana, Senegal, and Madagascar.

Countries that drive on the right side include:

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • American Samoa
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Azores
  • Bahrain
  • Balearic Island
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bolivia
  • Bonaire
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Canary Island
  • Cape Verde
  • The Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Costa Rica
  • Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Curaçao
  • Czech Republic
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia
  • Faeroe Island
  • Finland
  • France
  • French Guiana
  • French Polynesia
  • Gabon
  • The Gambia
  • Gaza
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guam
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia, North
  • Madagascar
  • Madeira
  • Mali
  • Marshall Island
  • Martinique
  • Mauritania
  • Mayotte
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Myanmar
  • Netherlands
  • New Caledonia
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • North Macedonia
  • Northern Mariana Island
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Réunion
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Saba
  • Saint Barthélemy
  • Saint Martin
  • San Marino
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Sint Eustatius
  • Sint Maarten
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Somalia
  • South Korea
  • South Sudan
  • Spain
  • Sudan
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syria
  • Tahiti
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • The Netherlands
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Vatican City
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Yemen

Countries That Switched to Right-Hand Traffic 

Many of the countries that switched from left-sided driving to right-sided driving did so because they’re surrounded by neighboring right-sided countries. Such is the case with countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Sweden.

Countries that used to drive on the left but now drive on the right include but are not limited to:

  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cape Verde
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Finland
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Myanmar
  • The Netherlands
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Sierra Leone
  • Slovakia
  • Somalia
  • South Korea
  • Sudan
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan

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